If he could just stand on his tippy toes a little higher he’d be six foot, then surely people would take him serious. If his tie was more colorful than the department store brand, people would see him as their leader. If his name was in the newspaper, then they’d know he was for real. Welcome to the internet, where any idiot with a laptop and WiFi can claim greatness.
I spend a lot of time online, ok, too much time online. I write for clients online, research their competitors online, and sometimes when I get real lucky, run a social media contest, you guessed it, online. I’m online all the time. I’m a machine.
There are no real words to describe the type of person you become when you spend more time online each day than you spend off. Hermit, that’s too Notre Dame hunched mascoty, introvert, not when you spend half your day on social networks. How about human, human of the new millennia, where commerce and markets spend days evolving online in ways that allow even those with great disadvantages a shot at exploiting them, and if lucky, hacking out a living in the process. Back to the insecure narcissist. I know him well.
I used to think, no, care, what people thought of me online. I used to buy into the online reputation myths, that if you are Googled (fair warning it gets ugly for me real quick) you must present a list of accounts for your searchers to find. You must take that picture, you know the one, tanned at the beach, looking like you never do in real life, and stick it online where everyone can see it. You must write interesting stuff about your character, 2011 gen Y translation, swag. You must, in other words, create a lie.
How actual societal reputation works- you do X, Y, Z over the course of fifteen years, people that watch your evolution judge you on both X, Y, Z, and your maturation process, and come to a collective whisper about who you are. The coach that won 278 games and got kicked out of a few for fighting with the opposing players is known as a legend and not a derelict, just ask Ohio State fans about Woody Hayes.
Unfortunately the internet, her bounty has filled my cup of livelihood for near a decade, is easily manipulated. I should know, this is what I do for a living. I manipulate results in Google, create so-called brands on Facebook, and hammer away at creating persona for anyone with a PayPal account. The internet does not present an accurate, hell, a real picture at all of a person, yet it’s our collective default. How do you use that rice cooker? Google it! How many miles is it to Beijing from Toronto? MapQuest knows. Unfortunately people aren’t rice cookers or 747’s, their motion-filled, flawed to the bone, human beings. Their active agents of self interest, not exactly categorizable to the dismay of Myers Briggs. People are fluid, rich with enough layers even LulzSec can’t hack them. Nobody can categorize the depths of humans, but God.
So excuse my lack of exuberance at the ever-growing flock of anointers of superiority on the web, of those that talk of humility while an unnerving odor of hypocrisy lines their every breath. Distrust those so-called experts they’d say, and by the way we have some exciting news about our expert new wham-oh service coming next week. Their wicks aren’t easily defused.
Give me a heartwarming, giving person, one that truly offers value to this world, and I’ll show you someone that doesn’t even have a Facebook account. Show me a person in Africa feeding the poorest of the poor, and they won’t seek to post pictures of the children on the net for anything but to get them more food. Show me a humble heart, and you won’t find so much of a wisp of reputation management around their names. They are who they are, for better or worse, and they leave their judgment day for the afterlife.
A great irony that seemingly goes unnoticed by the showoffs, is that nobody was listening to begin with. Their great stage wasn’t built on a solid foundation, in fact, when analyzed beyond their own figments; there is no stage at all. If only a few had internet access, if only a couple had a blog or a video-enhanced website, maybe they’d have a chance at being known for anything other than self indulgence. That’s the internet for you, her sweet revenge on those that seek the light, she makes it free to anyone that wants to bask in it, and thus incredibly difficult to find a place away from the gazillion others trying to get some shine, maybe it’s only possible if standing on your tippy toes.